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Idaho ag export value well ahead of last year’s record pace

By Sean Ellis

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

POCATELLO – The total value of agricultural exports from Idaho increased by 26 percent during the first quarter of 2023 compared with the same period in 2022.

That’s significant because, according to one metric, Idaho set a record for total ag export value last year, at $1.13 billion.

According to U.S. Census Bureau data released May 4, $325 million worth of ag products were exported from Idaho during the first three months of 2023.

That was $67 million, or 26 percent, more than the total recorded for the same period in 2022.

First-quarter Idaho ag export value surged on the back of higher commodity prices in a few sectors that are impactful for the state of Idaho, said Doug Robison, the Idaho president of AgWest Farm Credit.

For example, cattle values were elevated as a result of a smaller herd nationwide and potato prices and related products increased in 2022 as a result of drought, lower yields and fewer planted acres, he said.

Cattle and potatoes are the state’s No. 2 and No. 3 agricultural commodities in terms of total farm-gate revenue, behind milk.

While some of the first-quarter ag value increase is due to higher prices, a lot of it is also due to increased volume.

For example, prices received by dairy producers during the first quarter of 2023 were more than 13 percent lower than the same period in 2022, Robison said.

“However, Idaho’s first-quarter dairy related exports increased an impressive 49 percent, year-over-year, while overall dairy exports from the U.S. only increased by 3 percent,” he said. “This suggests Idaho’s dairy exports benefited from capturing increased market share in foreign markets.”

The record $1.13 billion in ag export value from Idaho last year eclipsed the 2021 total of $1.02 billion, which tied a record set in 2014.

So far, through the first three months of the year, Idaho is on pace for three straight years of record ag export value.

According to the Census Bureau data, Canada remained the top destination for Idaho ag products during the first quarter, as $98 million worth of ag products from the state were exported to that nation, a 7 percent increase over the same period in 2022.

Mexico ranked No. 2 with $61 million worth of Idaho ag products from Idaho sold to that country during the first quarter, a 73 percent increase.

South Korea was third ($27 million, 151 percent increase), China ranked fourth ($25 million, 18 percent increase), Netherlands was fifth ($19 million, 33 percent increase) and Japan was sixth ($15 million, 19 percent increase).

Dairy was the top Idaho ag commodity exported during the first quarter of this year with $83 million worth of sales, up 49 percent from the same period last year.

Live animal exports from Idaho continue to soar.

The Census Bureau data, which is provided by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, shows $20 million worth of live animals from Idaho were exported to other countries during the first quarter. That’s a 26 percent increase over the same period in 2022.

Virtually all of those live animal exports were cows sold to Canada.

Over the past three years, the total value of live animal exports from Idaho has risen from $58 million in 2020 to $78 million in 2021 to $82 million in 2022.

Idaho exports of prepared vegetables, a category that includes French fries, were up 82 percent, to $34 million, during the first quarter.

The Census Bureau data, which is available on a monthly basis, differs from a separate set of data released annually by USDA.

The Census Bureau data doesn’t capture all of Idaho’s farm product exports because it is based on what state a commodity is exported from. For example, it doesn’t capture the wheat from Idaho that is exported out of Portland.

The USDA data does a better job of capturing all of Idaho’s agricultural exports but the Census Bureau data is more timely because it’s released each month.

However, both sets of data track closely when it comes to percentage increases or decreases.

According to the USDA data, Idaho set records for total value of ag product exports in 2020 ($2.34 billion) and 2021 ($2.55 billion). The USDA data for 2022 will be released this fall.